The age of Transition

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The period of time from the 1350 to 1650 in Europe has been called the "Age Of Transition." A group of people known as the middle class played a significant role during this time, and more specifically in the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the Commercial Revolution, and the rise of national monarchies. Around the mid 14th century, Italy began to grow rich from trade with the Middle East. There was an obvious geographical advantage, and Italian traders were taking advantage. A wealthy and powerful group of merchants and bankers emerged as the new middle class. For the first time, common people had the time and money to pursue outside interests. These interests included the arts and education. The Renaissance was a rebirth of Greek and Roman ideas. Ideas such as Humanism, Individualism, and naturalism became important to many. Painters, sculptors, and architects created many fine works which reflected these ideas. Some of the middle class created art themselves, but most used their money to support the work of artists. The Medici's were a wealthy Italian family who supported many great artists in the northern Italian city of Florence. The Protestant Reformation also brought about great changes in Europe. Before this time, any religious writings (including the Bible) were only written in Latin. Books had to be copied by hand, so they were very hard to come by. Two things happened that changed that. First, in 1450 Johann Gutenberg printed the first European book with movable type. Also, in the 1520's Martin Luther translated the New Testament from Latin to German. For the first time, middle class Europeans could not only afford a Bible, but they could read it too, because it was written in a language that they could understand. This had dramatic effects. People no longer relied on the clergy for biblical enlightenment. They could now read it themselves. Towards the end of the 15th century, many European nations became very interested in exploring and exploiting the wealth of foreign lands. Christopher Columbus' unexpected discovery of the Americas in 1492 triggered an even more intense desire for exploration. People in the middle class had a lot to gain from their country's exploration of new lands. It offered many opportunities for adventure and wealth. These opportunities caused the Commercial Revolution. A business venture (such as trade with other countries) required an enormous amount of wealth. Some times prospective businessmen formed something called a The period of time from the 1350 to 1650 in Europe has been called the "Age Of Transition." A group of people known as the middle class played a significant role during this time, and more specifically in the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the Commercial Revolution, and the rise of national monarchies. Around the mid 14th century, Italy began to grow rich from trade with the Middle East. There was an obvious geographical advantage, and Italian traders were taking advantage. A wealthy and powerful group of merchants and bankers emerged as the new middle class. For the first time, common people had the time and money to pursue outside interests. These interests included the arts and education. The Renaissance was a rebirth of Greek and Roman ideas. Ideas such as Humanism, Individualism, and naturalism became important to many. Painters, sculptors, and architects created many fine works which reflected these ideas. Some of the middle class created art themselves, but most used their money to support the work of artists. The Medici's were a wealthy Italian family who supported many great artists in the northern Italian city of Florence. The Protestant Reformation also brought about great changes in Europe. Before this time, any religious writings (including the Bible) were only written in Latin. Books had to be copied by hand, so they were very hard to come by. Two things happened that changed that. First, in 1450 Johann Gutenberg printed the first European book with movable type. Also, in the 1520's Martin Luther translated the New Testament from Latin to German. For the first time, middle class Europeans could not only afford a Bible, but they could read it too, because it was written in a language that they could understand. This had dramatic effects. People no longer relied on the clergy for biblical enlightenment. They could now read it themselves. Towards the end of the 15th century, many European nations became very interested in exploring and exploiting the wealth of foreign lands. Christopher Columbus' unexpected discovery of the Americas in 1492 triggered an even more intense desire for exploration. People in the middle class had a lot to gain from their country's exploration of new lands. It offered many opportunities for adventure and wealth. These opportunities caused the Commercial Revolution. A business venture (such as trade with other countries) required an enormous amount of wealth. Some times prospective businessmen formed something called a joint-stock company. Several investors would put their money together for a commercial undertaking, and share the profits. Sometimes a company would sell huge shares or stocks to many people, and profit immensely. The Dutch East India Company and the English East India Company were two such examples. By the early 1500's England, Spain, and France had developed strong central governments whose rulers were called absolute monarchs. Powerful government, such as these, usually brought peace and prosperity to a nation. Businessmen did not have to worry about such inconveniences as constant civil disorder, wars between neighboring kingdoms, different monetary units produced by different lords, and expensive taxes by individual rulers. The government also produced a standard currency for the entire country. This made doing business easier, and many middle class people became bankers. In general the rise of national monarchies brought peace and economic stability to the region. The middle class played a significant role in the Age of Transition. They supported artists during the Renaissance. They learned to read the bible and helped to spread P

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